My lunch date that I referred to in earlier posts felt like a failure on every level. Instead of trying to jolly her out of her failure mentality I asked her to go home and list all her failures in a notebook and bring them to me in a few days. She readily agreed to this exercise in shaming because her brain constantly recounted these failures to her all day and night long. I understood intuitively that if I had asked her to list her successes she would have acquiesced in the moment but I would have never seen her again.
Instead, she showed up with her notebook ready for me to acknowledge that indeed, she was a complete failure. But here’s the thing that was so predictable and striking about her list. Pretty much everything on her list was an item she NEVER IN A MILLION KAZILLION YEARS HAVE EVER SUCCEEDED AT!
1. I could not get my brother to stop using drugs.
2. I failed at protecting my siblings from my father’s abuse. (She was the youngest child.)
3. I failed to make my mother love me.
4. I have failed to ever have a normal, happy holiday event where my entire family gathered in peace.
See what she did there? These are all things that are beyond her control. But the tricky thing about an unhealthy family is members are often made to feel responsible without any authority or right to actually change anything!
Currently she is working on the following perspective shifts:
1. Change is a process not a crisis reaction.
2. Process takes time.
3. Mistakes are inevitable.
4. Not all mistakes are mine to own.
5. Goals must be realistic and within the realm of my responsibility.
6. Some things are impossible to achieve without the support of all parties.
7. Resiliency and skills like perseverance are only useful if the objective is realistic.
Any of this sound familiar to you and yours?